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The Big Takeover Issue #92
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Roomful of Teeth - Rough Magic (New Amsterdam)

31 May 2023

If there’s a better name for a vocal group than Roomful of Teeth, we haven’t heard it. Rough Magic, the New England act’s sixth full-length album, pushes the Teeth into new realms of artistic expression. While essentially an a cappella group, the ensemble has no problem incorporating Autotune, synthesizer flourishes, tape trickery, and every approach to singing under the sun: operatic wails, doo-wop harmonies, choral textures, Broadway theatrics, avant garde eccentricities, nonsense syllables, and pretty much any noise the human throat can conceive. That works especially well for composer William Brittelle’s three-part “Psychedelics” and group member Caroline Shaw’s five-part “The Isle,” an adaption of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest – the mind-bending, dreamlike qualities of the source material lend themselves to outré methodology. The electronic fuckery in Eve Beglarian’s “None More Than You” suggest an affinity for Steve Reich or William Basinski, while Peter S. Shin’s “Bits Torn From Words” eschews outside forces for pure vocal expression. You may think you know what to expect from Roomful of Teeth, but you really don’t – and that makes Rough Magic even more of a delight.


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